June 28, 2007

New Seattle hotel to marry luxury with green

  • The building will have energy-saving measures such as occupancy sensors, dual-flush toilets, air filtration and pre-heated water for showers, sinks and dishwashers.
    Sienna Architecture


    Commercial buildings have long been part of the problem when it comes to the environment, using copious amounts of power and water to keep their inhabitants comfortable. Change is in the air, however, as owners and operators begin to account for the fact that more and more people want to help protect the earth’s resources. As a result, concern for the environment is shaping present-day thought about everything from the cars we drive and the compost we keep to the places where we live and vacation.

    Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Capital Group has reacted to this by creating 1 Hotel & Residences. A one-of-a-kind place to stay for those who seek eco-friendly choices, 1 Hotel & Residences combines luxury living with environmental stewardship. To ensure this effort, Starwood is being advised by the Natural Resources Defense Council and will have all of its properties certified as a leader in energy and environmental design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council.

    As a LEED-certified architect for Sienna Architecture of Portland, which designed the brand’s flagship Seattle location being developed by Starwood Capital and Portland-based Avalon Holdings, I have been able to get a firsthand look at the green strategies and technologies being employed to ensure this brand lives up to its marketing.

    Beyond the basics

    Image courtesy of Sienna Architecture
    1 Hotel & Residences is expected to achieve a LEED silver rating, reportedly a first among Seattle’s hotels.

    Sternlicht’s commitment goes well beyond fluorescent light bulbs, Energy Star appliances, local and recycled construction materials (including only wood from sustainable-managed forests), and support for alternative transportation. Those basics are a given in this project, as are a comprehensive recycling program, water-efficient landscaping, low-flow toilets and sinks, and wood flooring reclaimed from old buildings or salvaged sunken timbers.

    While all these things are an important part of being a good steward of the environment, they will only get you a basic level of LEED certification. Moreover, they won’t likely convince potential residents and guests that you are creating something special because they probably employ many of the aforementioned strategies in their daily lives.

    1 Hotel & Residences takes it to the next level on many fronts. Complementing the fluorescent light bulbs, units will have occupancy sensors and other lighting control systems that further minimize energy use. Even the light fixtures themselves have been designed to use less energy.

    To maximize air quality, air filtration systems will provide cleaner air than one would breathe outside. In addition, contractors are operating under strict guidelines to use paints and adhesives that produce minimal volatile emissions, keep all materials dry, and protect ductwork from collecting dust and debris during construction. Finally, the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system will be flushed and air quality will be tested to ensure superior performance prior to occupancy.

    Two ways to flush

    On the water conservation front, the toilets not only will be low-flow but also will have two different flush buttons, one with just enough water to flush solids and one for liquids that uses much less water. The result will be an overall one-third decrease in water use as compared to standard low-flow toilets. Plans also include the reuse of rainwater by collecting what would otherwise be stormwater runoff from the rooftop.

    In similar fashion, the building will make full use of what would otherwise be wasted heat. The heat that radiates off the steam heating system operated by the city of Seattle will be captured and used to pre-heat water for shower, sinks and dishwashers. As a result, water coming out of the supply main at 55 degrees will be pre-heated to between 70 degrees and 80 degrees, significantly decreasing power demands on the hot water heaters.

    On the cooling side of things, the refrigerant used for air conditioning will be a type that does not cause ozone depletion. High-performance windows will cut down on the heat gain that causes the HVAC system to work harder than it needs to.

    The building’s roof will be covered with a white reflective material rather than black tar to help mitigate the heat-island effect. A heat island is an urban area that is hotter than its immediate surroundings due to dark paving and roofing materials soaking up and then radiating heat from the sun.

    The sum of all these eco-friendly parts is a 33 percent decrease in energy use relative to the city of Seattle’s baseline building code and no less than silver LEED certification, which is no small feat. As of today, no hotel or condominium development in Seattle has achieved that level of certification.

    Greg Acker is director of sustainability for Portland-based Sienna Architecture. A LEED Accredited Professional and an adjunct professor of green building courses at the Portland Center of the University of Oregon, Acker has 30 years of experience as a green architect and building contractor.

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